May 3rd: Final training week and my BMO Vancouver Half Marathon on Sunday!

Canada Place - Vancouver Convention Centre

Canada Place – Vancouver Convention Centre

The reality of running my BMO Vancouver Half Marathon Run this coming Sunday really hit home when I picked up my race package at the Vancouver Convention Centre at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver this morning.

The convention centre was packed with hundreds of other runners who were all, like myself, quite excited and full of anticipation. I treated myself to a bright yellow singlet, a stylish red tee shirt and some new socks for race day.

Strictly speaking, one should not wear anything new on race day. However, my current socks are worn out and I also need a bright running shirt so that my wife Marjory and our two children can find me among the thousands of runners that will be out on the course on Sunday morning.

Mundy Park - off trail path

Mundy Park – off trail pathway

This final training week before the run has been comparatively restful and relaxing, but not without some concern.

As I suspected at the time, my 5K run last Monday did turn out to be my last training run.

Having experienced some groin pain and then after much deliberation, I decided not to run again until race day. I did not want to risk further injury and thought it wise to give the groin more time to heal.

In the meantime, I have been stretching, icing and then applying heat to the affected area. Hopefully, this will avert or at least minimize any problems during the race.

Wednesday was a beautiful day, so I decided to go for a walk and explore the less-travelled paths off the main trails among the woods of Mundy Park.

Judging by the tire marks in the muddy parts of the trail, it has to be the local mountain bikers that frequented these trails rather than runners and walkers.

Walking rather than running that morning turned out to be quite exhilarating and refreshing. There were times when I did not really know exactly where I was or which was I was headed but that just made it more fun.

Moving along the path at a slower pace also afforded me the opportunity to reflect, contemplate and give thanks for an incredibly satisfying and enjoyable 4 months of running.

Statistically, over the last 4 months I ran a total of 55 training runs and 403K. My four longest training runs ranged from 14-17K and most recently I have been running at a 6 minute per km pace.

Sasamat Lake

Sasamat Lake

Comparatively, before I started my half marathon training, I was only able to run for a maximum of 30 minutes at about an 8 minute per km pace maximum.

That’s quite a performance improvement, I think.  I am most pleased with my progress as well as my hard work and determination!

Equally important, I feel that I have managed my training well and have progress without adversely impacting my concussion and tinnitus symptoms.

Although I still experience daily headaches and tinnitus symptoms, they do seem much less severe now than they were before I started my training.

I firmly believe that my training program has increases my endorphin levels, which has helped reduce my stress levels and consequently my stress-related  concussion and tinnitus symptoms. The fog is gradually clearing!

I do not think that I would have been able to achieve this without the self-management knowledge that I gained from the University of Buffalo Concussion Clinic’s ‘running rehabilitation’ program that I followed for about 6 months last year. The program was recommended to me by my psychologist and physiotherapist at the Coquitlam Concussion Clinic.  Thank you so much!

Throughout this final week of training, I have had the opportunity to reflect on all of the beautiful trails that I have run over the past four months.

There’s Port Moody Inlet, Mundy Park and Burnaby Lake and others that I have run many times and will always enjoy. Then there’s the many new running trails that I discovered, such as the Pitt River Dyke and the Sasamat Lake trail. I enjoyed them immensely and will undoubtedly run them all again in the future.

Stanley Park seawall - 3rd Beach

Stanley Park seawall – 3rd Beach

Highlights of my training included the opportunity to revisit runs that have run many times in the past but not for some time.

A prime example would be our very own world-class iconic run – the Vancouver seawall around Stanley Park. It’s one of the most beautiful runs on the planet!

Over the past few days, I have been looking forward to my half marathon race on Sunday morning.

Although I still have some concerns about my left groin pain, I have now rested it for 5 days, so hopefully it will not be a problem on race day.

I am therefore feeling confident that I will have a good race. I have worked very hard over the last 4 months and have prepared well.

Now all I need to do for the rest of the week is to stay positive, eat healthy, drink lots of water, rest and relax, and get two really good night’s sleep!

On Sunday morning, our family plan is to rise around 4:30AM. It’s supposed to be warm and dry, so I will dress in shorts and my new tee shirt or singlet for my run. I will enjoy a light breakfast, and then we will head off in the car, and drop me at the Canada Line.

PoCo Trail - Pitt River Dyke

PoCo Trail – Pitt River Dyke

While Marjory and the children find a restaurant and have their breakfast and then find a spectator cheering spot on the race course, I will be riding the Canada Line train down to Queen Elizabeth Park and the start of the race.

I’m hoping to arrive at QEP at around 6:15AM so that I have sufficient time to stretch, prepare mentally, soak up the atmosphere and be ‘ready to go’ at the start line for the 7AM starting gun.

My heart is racing a little faster just thinking and writing about race day. I still have two sleeps to go!

If you live in the Vancouver area, be sure to come to the race and cheer everyone on. It’s a great spectator experience; I am sure that you will have a terrific time.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to give all of my fellow runners my sincere best wishes and lots of good energy for a great race day on Sunday.

I’m looking forward to seeing all of the cheers and smiles, and to saying hello to some of you.

Good luck and God speed everyone!

John - good luck everyone!

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Run#52 Apr 24: Mundy Park 4K – one step back!

Mundy Park Trail

Mundy Park Trail

Today’s 4K run in Mundy Park was unfortunately not one of my best, which was disappointing given the great sense of optimism I felt on Monday.

It has been a case of ‘two steps forward, one step back’ this week, just when I thought that I was ‘out of the woods’, so to speak!

One reason for some of my problems today was simply lack of sleep. I got to bed late last night after finishing my last blog and responding to all of my backlogged email.

Consequently, I had a foggy head and ringing in my ears when I first woke up, and it stayed with me for quite a while.

I had originally planned do an 8K run today but I realized first thing this morning that I would probably run out of time.

Mundy Park Trail

Mundy Park Trail

My wife Marjory reminded me that we had to leave the house at about 10:15AM to get our daughter to her piano festival.

I dropped my son at school and headed straight to Mundy Park.

It’s a beautiful trail and it’s the also the closest running trail to our home. Running there would enable me to maximize the length of my run that morning.

Given my headache and tinnitus, I did not feel good right from the start of my run. I was still trying to work out a way to fit in my 8K as I made my way down the trail.

First thing was to try and map out a 10K route in my mind.

Mundy Lake Trail

Mundy Lake Trail

Mundy Park has the Perimeter Trail that follows the edge of the park all the way round.

Then it has several trails that cross the width of the park. I first thought that I would run figure eights on the park trails and monitor my distance on my Strata Run app.

My plan would have worked but for some reason I did not stick to it, probably because I was not feeling well. Instead of staying with my original plan, I stared meandering from this trail to that trail and ended up back on Perimeter Trail going in the opposite direction from when I started.

By the time I run around the west side of the park and was headed up Heart Attack Hill, I was resigned to the fact that I would only be able to get in a 5K run.

Frankly, I was not happy about it at all.

Old Logging Trail

Old Logging Trail

About half way down the south side of the trail, I saw the Interlaken Trail junction ahead. I turned left onto Interlaken and took a sharp right onto Old Logging Trail.

This is much more interesting, I said, as I ran down a long flight of steps that led to Lakeside Trail that circled Mundy Lake.

Soon after this interesting interlude, I was back on Perimeter Trail and then I headed up the last hill towards my car in the lot.

As I stretched out at the end of my run, I was feeling quite stressed and a bit down about the fact that my run did not go well. It’s interesting that after my daughter played well in her piano festival later that morning, I felt much better and was less concerned about my run.

As I sit here in my red chair writing my blog, I realize that this has been a stressful week for our family. Both kids were performing in the piano festival and they also presenting their French speeches at school.

I have concluded that high stress and a lack of sleep likely caused the headaches and tinnitus that then negatively impacted my run.

Mundy Lake

Mundy Lake

This Friday morning, I am scheduled to do my last long training run before my BMO Vancouver Half Marathon race on May 5th.

I am hoping that I have a good one!

Given that the stress levels around the house this week have subsided, all I need to do is get two good nights sleep before Friday and I should be okay. Sounds good!

Run#46 Apr 9: Mundy Park 5K – Ebony & Ivory

Mundy Park - perimeter trail

Mundy Park – perimeter trail

My mother-in-law Margaret, a classical piano teacher for over 50 years, has a thought-provoking plaque on the wall of her home studio. It says…

‘Moments of silence are a part of the music”

I have always loved classical music. It’s always been a big part of my life and remains so to this day. So I really do understand those simple yet profound words of wisdom.

Margaret’s plaque actually came to mind as I was doing my short run this morning. I thought of those words, and then transposed them into what I might put on a similar plaque in our home office, next to the board where I pin all my running information. It would say…

‘Rest is a part of running’

As I headed up the first hill on my 5K run on the Perimeter Trail in Mundy Park, I immediately noticed how strong and energetic I felt.

Mundy Park - perimeter trail

Mundy Park – perimeter trail

This was in stark contrast to the way I have felt for many of my runs over the last week or so. Why was that, I wondered. I continued on my way.

I began to notice that there were lots of dogs off leash on the trail this morning, as I powered my way along the trail at the top end of the park near the fire hall.

Since they are both quite social in nature, the dogs and their owners tend to stop along the trail and congregate for a chat. The owners talk a lot about their dogs and it’s seems reasonable to assume that the dogs probably chat about their owners.

There was one occasion this morning when I literally had to slow down to a crawl and carefully maneuver my way through a rather large crowd of owners and dogs that were straddling the entire width of the trail!

Mundy Park - perimeter trail

Mundy Park – perimeter trail

As I increased my pace down the hill from the top end towards Heart Attack Hill, it became clear to me that it had to be the extra day of rest and the solid 8-hour sleeps I have had since my 17K long run last Friday that has given me this incredible boost in energy for my run today.

Wow, what a difference it makes!

Although I ended up missing my scheduled run yesterday, I had a full day and it was time well spent. I rose earlier that usual, at about 6AM, and headed into downtown Vancouver on the skytrain.

Mundy Park - perimeter trail

Mundy Park – perimeter trail

My first appointment was at St. Paul’s Hospital Tinnitus Clinic to see my amazing audiologist Glynnis, who has been closely monitoring my tinnitus and hearing since I volunteered for an exciting new tinnitus treatment research project. It’s been an incredible experience and has helped me with my tinnitus a great deal.

Today was my last session with Glynnis, so I wish to say a huge thank you to her. She has taken such good care of me over the past year or so and we have had some wonderful conversations along the way. She is a truly lovely person!

Afterwards, I made my way down to the Caffe Artigiano at The Opus Hotel in Yaletown, and had the pleasure of meeting with Maria, who is Marketing Coordinator with musica intima. As you may know, I am a huge fan of musica intima. I listen to their choral music often on my runs and mention them frequently on my blogs. They’re music is terrific, and for me, it’s also therapeutic!

Mundy Park - perimeter trail

Mundy Park – perimeter trail

Maria and I had a great conversation. We talked about music intima, music therapy, marketing, blogging, and various life impressions and experiences , as we while sipped on lattes and munched on pastries.

It was fun and we had a lovely chat and I look forward staying in touch with Maria.

I then met up with my good friend Dave who I worked with in Toronto in the mid-70’s when we were fresh off the boat from the UK. We have been good friends now for over 35 years.

So we went to lunch and caught up with our new  while watching a live soccer game from the UK. Unfortunately, there was no sound available for the game and my team (Man U) lost to our recent  arch rivals (Man City). However, that did not spoil my lunch or prevent us from having a good time together, as always.

I knew in advance that the day would be busy, so I had planned to do my scheduled run in the evening but that just did not materialize.

My evening was initially filled to the brim with helping my kids with their French homework. After that, I spent an hour or so singing with my 7 year-old daughter. She is a great singer by any standard, let alone for a 7-year old, and we love to sing together.

Mundy Park - perimeter trail

Mundy Park – perimeter trail

Most recently, she is totally enamoured with those dramatic and romantic songs from Phantom of the Opera.

We got the movie from the library and watched it at the weekend.  She has been singing the songs non stop ever since. She even printed all the lyrics from the net!

With all of this extra energy, I finished my 5K run in record time today. So I decided to spend a much longer time than usual doing my stretches. When I had finished all of the small aches and pains had gone away.

I gave thanks for my good health and for being able to run again, and then wandered off into a wooded area close by that has become a sacred place for me, where I can relax and meditate after my Mundy Park runs.

I have affectionately named this place ‘Meditation Grove’.

Meditation Grove

Meditation Grove

Now more than ever, as I approach the final few weeks of training before my BMO Vancouver Half Marathon, it’s important for me appreciate that I have worked hard and prepared well for my race, over the past three months.

In other words, the vast majority of my preparation is already done and there is little or no benefit in doing any more than my scheduled training runs, or pushing too hard during my runs, at this point.

Equally important, is to ensure that I rest well, physically, mentally and spiritually, between my remaining training runs.

I also need to remind myself that I must now listen carefully to my body as I run, and give myself permission to run a little easier or perhaps rest for a while, if that’s what I need to do to avert an injury or major fatigue.

Rest is to running, as silence is to music. Together in perfect harmony!

Run#43 Mar 31: Mundy Park 10K & moving on

Perimeter Trail

Mundy Park – Perimeter Trail

It had been 4 days since my unscheduled mid-week 17K long run and I was still feeling a little mentally fatigued.

However, I knew that it was not physical fatigue, so I wasn’t too concerned.

The entire week has been incredibly busy. On Friday, our son became sick with pneumonia.

Thankfully, he is now on antibiotics and has bounced  back quickly.

I finally managed to find a 1-hour ‘window of opportunity’ for my 10K run around noon, between coming back from church and starting to prepare our family Easter dinner.

I quickly headed out from the house around noon, and headed towards Mundy Park.

The weather was still sunny and warm as it has been all week. The initial 1K on Laurentian Crescent is all uphill, which is always hard going.

Once I have reached the Earl Haig retirement residence at the corner of Laurentian and Austin, I have usually found my second wind.

As I turned the corner that morning, there was one of my favourite people, a gentleman who participated in the UVic chronic pain workshop that I had facilitated at Earl Haig.

Earl Haig

Earl Haig

“Still getting out to do your regular exercise I see. Well done!” I quipped and stopped to chat.

We exchanged a few warm words and then I was on my way down the Austin hill, gradually picking up some speed.

Today was Easter Sunday and the day had started well. The Easter bunny came to visit our house last night.

Our two children had great fun gathering chocolate eggs!

Around 10AM, we all headed off to St. Lawrence Anglican Church dressed up for the Easter Sunday service. It was excellent and the choir was in fine voice.

After we took communion, we lit a candle for my father-in-law Carl, who sadly passed away at the end of February. Although we all miss Carl’s ‘larger that life’ presence, we are gradually getting used to him not being with us physically any more. Life goes on.

Mundy Park - still stream

Mundy Park – a quiet stream

After the service, my wife Marjory and I had the opportunity to speak to several members of the Church choir.

I have been thinking of looking for a new choir for the fall. My father-in-law Carl was a member of my present choir before I joined. He was the main reason that I had joined this choir. Although I have enjoyed my time with my choir, I think that it’s now time to move on.

The church choir members that my Marjory and I spoke to on Sunday were warm, friendly and welcoming. What’s more, they seemed genuinely interested in having me join their choir, which was encouraging.

I have to admit that being ‘in demand’ with choirs is one of the great joys of being a tenor!

Mundy Park entrance

Mundy Park – entrance path

As I entered Mundy Park, I was now feeling quite strong.  So I increased the pace a little as I headed up the first slow and gradual Perimeter Trail hill.

With just five weeks of training left before the race, it was good to be feeling this way.

After I powered my way to the top of Heart Attack Hill, I headed down the long hill at a steady pace towards the park exit.

Once out of the park, I knew that it was jus a short 2K run to the house and almost all downhill.

However, I soon realized that the total distance of the run was only about 9K.  So I decided to take a minor detour to ensure that I racked up my planned 10K.

Rochester Elementary School

Rochester Elementary School

I made a right turn at Rochester and ran down the hill until I reached Decaire Street, where I stopped for a few moments.

There across the street from me was Rochester Elementary School, the sight of my accident and brain injury two years ago.

There was a time that I used to completely avoid this area. It was too disturbing for me and it actually brought on my concussion symptoms.

Now, being at the school again was totally different experience. My accident really was now in my past. I no longer felt anxious when around the accident site.

Thomas - ravine bridge

Thomas – ravine bridge

My progress in this area has been primarily due to the work that I did with the St. Paul’s Tinnitus Clinic and Dr. Marshall Wilensky, a psychologist specializing in  a psychotherapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

I was initially referred to Dr. Wilensky after being selected for a St. Paul’s Hospital Tinnitus Clinic research project. The ten EMDR sessions that I then had with Dr. Wilensky were all extremely challenging, emotionally draining, totally revealing and positively worthwhile.

As a result of our hard work together, I was finally able to put my past well and truly into the past.

My EMDR sessions with Dr. Wilensky changed my life forever, and for the better!

I will be forever grateful to the people at the St. Paul’s Tinnitus Clinic and Dr. Wilensky, for their caring, kindness, compassion, understanding and expertise.

After a few moments of contemplation, I turned away from the school and ran down the Decaire hill. I took a sharp left turn at Thomas and ran up and over the ravine bridge.

It was then just a short run, first down and then up the crescent hill. The cherry blossoms are so beautiful, I thought , as I rounded the last bend before heading uphill to my home.

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms

As I stretched out my leg muscles outside the house, I tried to calculate how long the two chickens we had brought for our Easter family dinner this evening would take to roast.

I anticipated that tonight’s family dinner might have its difficult moments, given that it would be our first family dinner since my father-in-law Carl’s passing.

There may be a sad moment or two, and maybe even a tear or two, but I knew that together we would be fine.

About two hours for the chickens, I decided, as I went into the house. How about a refreshing white wine spritzer while I am preparing dinner, I asked myself.

What a grand idea, I concluded!